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SANTA MONICA, CA-Two of the nine centers in Macerich Co.’s elite Lumenati Collection, a portfolio designed to deliver top-drawer service to luxury retailers, are undergoing major facelifts. They are the 433,000-sf Village at Corte Madera in Marin County north of San Francisco Bay, and the 115,000-sf Carmel Plaza in Carmel-by-the Sea.

While each is different in size and setting, both serve affluent markets. One shared objective of the planned renovations is to further mine opportunities in the fast-growing, highly profitable luxury retail market that Lumenati was created to exploit. Glitz is not the vehicle. The renovations are designed to “create environments that respond to each community’s individual ambiance and esthetic and to increase the levels of customer service,” Tracey Gotsis, SVP of development and marketing for Lumenati, tells GSR. No cookie cutters. Both centers will be made more town-like, but each appropriate to its own neighborhood.

According to published reports, the price tag for renovation of the 20-year-old Corte Madera property, which is co-owned by Macerich and Chicago-based Institutional Mall Investors, is $10 million. It will leave no stone unturned, even though the asset is about 98% occupied and sales at specialty stores rose 31.5% last year and reached an average of $613 per sf.

The makeover encompasses common areas, building facades, access, lighting and landscaping under a plan designed by Mill Valley, CA-based Royston Hanamoto Alley & Alley, and San Francisco-based Patri Merker Architects. To make the center more appealing to families, a new, larger children’s playground with a theme described as a “Marsh Park” will be added along with a lawn area for parents. It will incorporate water features, seating and gardens designed to attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

Lighter, warmer earth tones will replace the current cool gray colors of building facades, and revised storefront design criteria is being introduced for new and existing tenants as leases are signed and renewed. “The updated criteria will encourage more individuality among the stores and create a greater presence for each tenant with more of a village look than that of a mall,” says John Genovese, Macerich SVP of real estate.

Recently expanded and remodeled units of Restoration Hardware and Williams-Sonoma Grand Cuisine along with a remodeled Pottery Barn exemplify the diversity in this more town-like setting. Macy’s and the area’s only Nordstrom anchor the center. Other tenants are Apple Computer, Chico’s and J. Crew. The Cheesecake Factory, which opened in 2004, is the restaurant anchor. Based on its success, Anne Singleton, VP of leasing for Lumenati, says, “we would like to add another better casual destination restaurant.”

She is also in negotiations with a number of luxury retailers to take over expiring leases, she says. “In particular, we are looking to enhance our presentation in the better women’s apparel and accessories categories.”

The physical makeover “will be accompanied by selective introductions of new luxury retailers and restaurants,” adds Randy Brant, SVP of development leasing for the Lumenati brand. The objective is to “better align the Village’s merchant mix with Marin County’s population of upwardly mobile professionals and affluent homeowners.”<pThere are 124,000 households within a 10-mile radius of the center, and the average household income is about $112,000, according to Macerich research. Concierge services and valet parking, signature Lumenati services, are also being expanded for the benefit of both the luxury merchants and their clientele.

Further down California’s coast, a 35,000-sf Saks departed Carmel Village, allowing Macerich to accelerate re-merchandising efforts begun there approximately 18 months ago, according to Brant. “The recapture of the Saks space offers us the opportunity to bring in world class national and regional retailers to a world class destination,” he says.

This June Tiffany joins a group of new tenants that moved into Carmel Village since 2002. They include Louis Vuitton, Cole Haan, Sur La Table, Coldwater Creek and J. Jill. Anne Taylor, Banana Republic, Chico’s and Talbots are also in residence.

The renovation, developed by San Francisco-based Field Paoli Architects, calls for a redo of the facades and rooflines in the single- and multi-level structures along the perimeter of the center that face the town’s shopping district streets. The two-story building at the corner of Ocean Ave. and Mission St., for example, will be redone in Spanish Colonial Revival style and include the asymmetrical placement of openings and white plaster walls. Other street-front buildings will be painted in subtly different colors “to make the facades feel more like a collection of smaller structures rather than a single large mass,” the architect says.

In keeping with the seaside community’s natural setting, courtyard surfaces will be painted in warm earth tones, and wooden king posts and shaped cross bracing will be added at the ends of the buildings’ gabled roofs, adding what the architect describes as “a sense of craftsmanship to the structure.” Chairs, benches, tables and potted plants are being added to the courtyard, which will host jazz concerts and other special events while also providing a comfortable place where shoppers can relax.

Costs of the Carmel Village facelift “haven’t yet been established,” Gotsis says, suggesting it will be considerably less than for the larger Corte Madera property. Carmel benefits not only from its own affluent households, but also from the approximately seven million visitors from around the world who visit the Monterey Peninsula’s famed golf courses, beaches, wineries and scenic roadways every year.

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